Will Warasila has spent the last several years in Brooklyn, NY, and received his BFA in Photography from the School of Visual Art in 2015. Increasingly, he has found his subjects outside of the urban landscape—bikers who run the ice in Jamaica Bay, old-time stock car drivers on beat-up tracks of his native North Carolina. India at Interval is work from a trip Will made in December 2015. Today we’re excited to share Will’s project during his travels in India and ask him a few questions about his work.
India at Interval
This is series of photographs made in India in nine areas around the country in December 2015. India is a well-known visual feast. Warasila found the images in this series in a place familiar to his work—in those rare moments of stillness that exist even in one of the most hectic landscapes on earth.
In them is contained the moment before and after, a particular quality of stillness. Will says his subjects in India, many of them working or visiting local temples and religious sites, possessed a marked ability to simply show up in the moment. All of this portrait work carries over to his ongoing obsession with found still-life. These found objects punctuate, and in a way, point up the intention of the portraits.
Will has located that stillness in moments “before” and “after”, rather than mining the traditional “decisive moment.” The sense of the actual in his photographs reflects tenuousness and fluidity rather than a fixed position. The portraits made among people working or visiting local temples and religious sites are both posed and observed, seen directly and obliquely, closeup and from a distance, in clear light and in atmospheric conditions. They are not unlike the found still lifes he has photographed in the past. Whether people or found objects, the subjects bring to life and punctuate their context, heightening the meaning of that particular time and place. Figures animate both urban and rural vistas in the same way that objects left behind leave traces of human presence and evoke a larger context.
Was creating a body of work your main intention for traveling to India? Can you describe your traveling experience? Were you traveling alone?
My main reason for traveling to India was to shoot B-roll for a small documentary about Indian Immigrants to North Carolina. I traveled with three other folks involved in the documentary. One of them was a native of Pune who has recently gained American citizenship. She was a great guide to the country, and we needed it with our schedule which had us about two days and two nights in each eight cities. We used every mode of transport available, though driving was the scariest. We stayed in nice hotels, bad hotels, and had lodging in a few families out in the countryside. The B-roll work would take my mornings. Since I was shooting the standard sights and sounds, that filled up my travelogue impulses real quick. I had the afternoons to myself. I could wander and do work that was all my own. Also, the food was incredible.
When you approached someone for a portrait, how did they generally respond?
That approach is the hard part, right? In two seconds, you can disrupt the image that you wanted. In India, some people would be confused for a moment. A few would get self-conscious, which meant I’d snap a few and move on. Most people were happy to oblige. They would get excited and ask me to email the photographs back to them once I returned to the States.
Do you have any specific moments that were especially memorable while working on this project?
The most memorable moment by far my excursion to the border of India and Pakistan just outside of Amritsar. Every evening the military folks do an “exchange of flags” ceremony on the border. Both countries have stadium seating for spectators. There was incredible noise, other-worldly chanting back and forth between the two groups. This sounds like a sporting event, but it was not. It was very intense. In this series, I have two photos from the border–one with the large crowd and another portrait of an Indian soldier in a large red headdress.
You mention being drawn to stillness rather than the common ‘travel photography’ idea of the ‘decisive moment’. This is an interesting concept especially while you’re shooting in such a hectic setting. How do you find those moments of stillness and approach them without disturbing it?
I just look in the cracks and corners and isolate them. And I keep my eye out for people on those same places, someone who looks very content and confident.
What is it about being ‘outside of the urban landscape’ that you find worth photographing?
I grew up in a small southern town where I could get in a car and be in open country in under ten minutes. So, at times, I’ve found living in an urban landscape suffocating. Adventuring out into the world beyond the media hub of NYC is important for me. There’s a lot going on in NYC 24/7, but most of the world does not operate this way..I like getting out someplace where I am not familiar with the surroundings. Visually, there is a more interest for me, and in those places, it’s easier to see what’s important, or at least, what’s important for an image. Most of the time, the people I meet seem a little more in touch with themselves and maybe a bit less self-conscious. I enjoy talking with them and hearing their story.
Do you believe living in New York while pursuing your education in photography provided a strong foundation to create your current work?
Being in the city made me focus on photography. I went to school (SVA) with a bunch of amazing talents, and every Thursday night, there was a round of new work in the galleries downtown. It’s not everything, but NYC is the center of the world for photography. When I’m there, the competitive nature of the community sponsors a different sort drive in me.
Any future travel plans or projects you’re working on?
I’ve been wanting to return to the stock car tracks down in North Carolina to complete a series I started awhile back. I also hope to catch up with these guys I know who ride their dirtbikes and ATV’s out on the ice of Jamaica Bay. And as always, I’m trying to take more surf trips.
If you’d like to view more of Will’s work, please visit his website.